If there is one thing I know about Jordan Travis, one thing he has exemplified, is that he wants this team to move forward.
With his injury, FSU is a different team. With Jordan, my opinion was that anything was possible. I've enjoyed this season so much, and a large part of that was Jordan Travis. With him, I felt confident in every game even when the scoreboard wasn't in our favor. We always had that X factor, knowing that in my opinion, the best running back on the field was still available to do what had to be done when the chips were down.
I felt that way on Saturday too. We went down 13-0 to an obviously lesser opponent, and I was angry. That is the exact word for it. And so was Jordan. And so like he's done so many times before, he took the reigns himself determined to gut it out and get us back on the right track. And he did just that, but suffered a martyrs fate to an extent.
So the question is, without Jordan, how good of a team are we? What is the ceiling?
For me, this season wasn't about winning a national championship. This season was about being able to root for a team that plays with heart, that never gives up, that is fun to watch and easy to cheer for. So many players on this team have demonstrated character. They did last year as well, and I'll personally take that over a national championship.
Win or lose from here on out and this season is a resounding success.
But the season isn't over! It won't be over after our last regular season game this week, whether we win or lose, we live to play another day.
Jordan was our best QB, no question. His leadership, dual threat and character earned him that. But what of Rodemaker?
I remember a few seasons ago, when I would wince at the mention of the name Jarrian Jones. My thought at the time was "let's get that guy off the roster and make room for someone who can play."
How wrong I was! Because this coaching staff took him, worked with him, and he transformed himself into the guy who sealed Miami's fate, who created turnovers in the last game, who is a valuable member of this team. I reminded myself of that a few weeks back when I was watching Kevin Knowles misplaying a pass to the Miami receiver.
Don't give up on Kevin Knowles, this coaching staff has proven they know how to shape a player.
And that brings us back to Rodemaker. I was excited about him as a prospect, a coach's son, a canon for an arm, he sounded perfect. Then I watched him struggle in a few games and began wishing for the transfer portal.
But just as I was wrong about Jones, Rodemaker has shown progress. He isn't a turnover machine. It may sound sacrilegious to say this today, but I'll say it, I think he is a better passer than Jordan. His motion looks good and he fires a rocket. He has potential and it looks like he's coming into his own.
His stats against North Alabama don't blow you away, but there were also several drops that should have been catches. He's got more zip on the ball than Jordan, which will require some adjustments from the receivers. He reminds me of Doug Williams, not when he played for the Redskins back when they were the Redskins, but when he played for the Bucs. He threw ropes but not as much touch on the ball. Jordan throws with a little more touch, but we've been lucky that a few more of those balls weren't picked off.
What he doesn't have is the same connection with the receivers as Jordan. He also doesn't throw with the same anticipation and his release isn't as quick or fluid. But when Rodemaker throws, it gets there.
Tate doesn't possess the elusiveness or same running threat as Jordan, there are very few that do, including running backs. But I believe that given time in the pocket, our passing game can be as good as it was with Jordan.
Given time in the pocket.
Our Oline is banged up. We do not have a dominant Oline and haven't all season. There would be a lot more sacks against this line if Jordan wasn't the runner we know he is. And we don't have a line that takes control of the game allowing our backs to define drives. We have backs that can make the most of a hole and hit big plays. Our running game simply won't be as effective, not only due to Jordan's injury, but the injuries plaguing our Oline.
But we still have what may be the best group of receiving options (including tight ends and RBs) in CFB, and those guys can make a difference. We need to scheme according to what we have and play to our strengths.
It's one game at a time just like it has been all season.
Our defense seems to be more dominant by the week. We will need to lean on them heavily.
It's Florida week, and the Gators play better at home than on the road. They have the talent to hang with us but their QB is out, and their Oline is banged up as well. Our defense should feast on that offense. Shut down the run first and I don't see them doing much. Our defense has held against better offenses, we should win that side of the ball.
I think the difference will come down to our playmakers. Keion Coleman, Johnny Wilson, Trey Benson, Jaheim Bell, Lawrence Toafili. I believe the Gator defense will get the best of our injured Oline, but if we can get those guys the ball, I believe good things will happen.
Is Armella ready? Early? Estes? Are they better than our starters given that our starters are hurting? I don't know, but if they are, I'd sure like to see them. And we may really need them for Louisville. I'll tell you who I do like - Keiondre Jones. To my eyes, our line looks better when he's in there.
Louisville benefitted from a very favorable schedule. That's my opinion. But they seem healthy. It's one game at a time, but for the purposes of this discussion, let's say FSU beats them.
Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Alabama, FSU. Eight contenders for four slots. Someone will win the Michigan/OSU game.
Let's say we have undefeated Georgia, FSU, Washington and Michigan/OSU. There's been some discussion whether FSU gets left out in that scenario, but at that point Alabama has two losses, Oregon has two losses. OSU/Michigan and Texas can finish with a single loss.
If that single loss team is Michigan, I think they are absolutely left out. Their schedule has been a cake walk, they're embroiled in a cheating scandal and the B1G already has its team in. Texas will have wins vs. Alabama and OK St. FSU will have wins vs. LSU, Louisville, Clemson, Miami and Florida.
In that scenario, I don't see a way that FSU gets left out. Which is what its always been. Win and we're in.
But what if Alabama knocks off Georgia or Michigan beats OSU? OSU would have two notable wins - Penn State and Notre Dame. Louisville beat ND and Penn State beat - no one. I think the B1G is a one bid conference.
So that leaves Alabama. Victories over Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky and A&M if you want to throw them in there. Alabama is in, which means FSU would be battling Georgia for the last spot.
Georgia is the two-time defending champion and would boast victories over Missouri, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Florida and Tennessee. I don't like the scenario that paints for FSU, even if we're undefeated.
If I go by my eye test, based on the season so far, I would rank the top eight as follows:
6. Ohio State
In all honesty, even with Jordan healthy, I don't like the matchups with any of those top three teams. WITH Jordan, we might get a few breaks and luck our way into something. Without him, I see a massive pile of human flesh staring at us across both lines of scrimmage and athletes all over the field.
Still, this season is a success regardless of what happens from here forward. And every remaining game represents a chance of increased success. Not winning a national championship or making the second round of the playoffs even isn't a failure. The fact that we can even have a serious discussion about it is a testament to what Mike Norvell has done for this program, and how Jordan Travis was instrumental in carrying out that vision.